By Christopher J Tipler
As a business owner or manager it is easy to become anxious in the face of all the dismal economic and market news, and particularly in the face of all the doomsayers. If the GFC does not return and get us (compliments of the USA, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and the UK, which are clearly all basket cases), then the carbon tax will, or the NBN ‘profligacy’, or on-line shopping. Then, of course, there is imminent ecological collapse, peak oil, a takeover by the Chinese, floods, uncontrollable wildfires, religious zealots who want to kill us, and boat people stealing our jobs. And that’s just for starters.
If you are not anxious about these things, I bet you spend an inordinate amount of time talking about them, or thinking about them (like everybody else).
So here are a few thoughts on the subject of uncertainty, and your attitude towards it, that you might find useful in your daily business life.
- Giving any or all of these issues any more than about one per cent of your mental space is a waste of your time. You don’t control any of them, and you don’t know what is going to happen (neither do I). So why give them any headspace?
- Your opinions on these matters, just like mine, are worthless. Give them up too; they simply soak up energy that could be used more productively
- If you are involved in running a public company, don’t give much thought to your share price. You don’t control market sentiment. If you are a CEO, or a member of the top team, your job is to concentrate on what you can control and deliver just two financial outcomes:
- A decent return on shareholders funds
- Some respectable growth in earnings per share
Provided these outcomes are delivered with sensible gearing, you have done your job. What your shareholders make of it is up to them.
- Having a good strategy is the key to delivering these outcomes. If you don’t have a strategic agenda that you completely believe in, one built on some insights and powerful ideas, then you need to create it. Now!
- If the market is jerking around your super fund balance, don’t worry about it, do something about it. To worry is to pray for something you don’t want. Why would you do that? We best deal with fears by going towards them, not avoiding them or burying them. Put yourself in charge
- Nothing is ever as bad as what the media says, or as good as it says
- The sky is not going to fall in. At the height of the Great Depression unemployment was 20%. That means 80% of people still had a job. Think about that, and about the welfare safety net and other policy instruments that now protect us from the horror of the soup kitchen
- Yes, the United States is in a quite stupid mess of its own making that will take years to sort out. Ditto the PIGs (Portugal, Ireland etc.). On the other side of the ledger, however, China, India, and other smaller Asian countries are in the middle of a powerful long-term upsurge from which Australia will continue to derive great benefit. We are seeing a long term shift in global economic and political power that was almost inevitable and we are very fortunate to be on the right side of the shift, by virtue of geography and resources
- The carbon tax will not cause Australia’s demise. It is actually quite sensible, balanced, policy (that has also been Liberal party policy) that will start us on a journey we should have taken a decade or more ago.
- The NBN is, almost certainly, a game-changing initiative that will transform Australian lives in many ways. Could it have been delivered much more cheaply and differently? Maybe (but not by any means certainly). Will some inefficiency in its rollout matter in the overall scheme of things? Not much.
- Droughts, wildfires, zealots, refugees – none of these issues are new. They are age-old issues and they will be with us for a long, long time to come
- In business, the water is never smooth. Get used to it. There are always crises, interruptions, and unpredictable events. The old Roman senator, Seneca, said it: ‘expect everything; everything will happen’. Your job, as a manager, is to be a capable long distance swimmer; one who is able to keep moving forward in choppy water. That’s what you are paid for.
- Keep calm and carry on. This very British saying is spot-on, and it is how they built an empire against all the odds. Stay calm and stick at it.
- Enjoy yourself. Life generally, and business life in particular, makes no sense if you are not enjoying it. Enjoyment starts with attitude, and the four tenets of ‘Fish Philosophy’ are a good place for me to finish (fin-ish – get it?):
- Choose your attitude
- Make someone’s day
- Play (have fun)
- Be present!
Christopher Tipler is a Melbourne-based management advisor and author of Corpus RIOS – The how and what of business strategy. His web site corpusrios.com contains more material on this and related topics.